Don’t buy Kinder eggs

Mike the Psych's Blog

p1ceu1nzkbumc2itd4-czh7lrblwouulhndll_qzbmve5cwdwmlxzvickigkhdbqhsn5-sgs129It turns out that the toys inside the Kinder chocolate eggs are made by child labour in Romania according to an investigation by the Sunnewspaper.

Families in this, one of the poorest of the EU countries are being paid as little as 20p an hour for making the toys at home.

Child exploitation is not new in Romania. It is probably as famous for sending gangs of child pickpockets to the UK as it is for being the home of Vlad the Impaler.

Apart from the child exploitation experts say there is also a risk of food poisoning if the toys have been assembled in unsanitary conditions.

A whistleblower said “Customers would expect products which go inside children’s chocolates to be made in controlled conditions but so many of the toys are being made in peoples homes that effective quality control is impossible”.

Ferrero (the Italian chocolatier that makes…

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Hotels can’t get the small things right

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Mike the Psych's Blog

DSC02023The Times travel section has identified a list of things which it believes irritates us when staying in hotels.

  • Room -orientation tours – isn’t that just touting for a tip?
  • Overcomplicated light switches – absolutely agree. In Lithuania last week I still hadn’t worked out all the possible combination when I left. And getting back to your room to find your iPad or phone has’ charged because you turned off the power by mistake….
  • Too short kettle cords – yes I was on my knees looking for a socket.
  • Tiny teacups – or it my case those glasses they serve cafe latte in. I hate them.
  • UHT milk – horrible stuff, couldn’t agree more.
  • Klepto-proof clothes hangers – not see those for a while.
  • Bad Art – try a literary themed room!
  • Gauzy white curtains – or wooden venetian blinds which also let the light in.
  • Hairdryers – not a…

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Dumbing down that smartphone

icon_flow_smart_phone_loop_500_wht_9550Have we reached smartphone-peak?

Have we finally realised we need to unplug ourselves from endless apps and social media connections? No more anxiety from FOMO or FOBO?

The NoPhone might have been a prank by two Canadian entrepreneurs having a dig at the latest smartphone upgrade but now there is a real alternative: the Light Phone.

It’s the size of a credit card and can make calls and store 10 numbers and that’s it. Retro or what?

It will be launched in the US by two friends, Joe Hollier and Kaiwei Tang, who used to design Motorola phones (I loved my flip-top Motorola) but grew jaded with the constant pressure to come up with increasingly addictive and life-consuming apps.

If you believe the statistics – and I find these figures unbelievable and not sure of their source – we tap our phones on average 2,617 times a day with almost 90% of us unable to resist checking our devises at leat once between midnight and 5.00 am. I am clearly an outlier in these statistics and in my usage despite blogging and using several twitter accounts.

Another survey from Deloitte however seems to confirm this trend with users aged 18-24 the worst offenders in that they are the ones most likely to use their phones in the middle of the night. These people are truly addicted and as Paul Lee, who led the research at Deloitte says “Consumers will need to learn how to run their lives with smartphones, as opposed to having their lives run by their devices.

Another trend is that of using video calls and social networks rather than standard voice calls which are declining. (Perhaps people like the idea of free calls and encryption?) A third of the respondents in the survey said they hadn’t made a voice call in the previous week.

Deloitte’s Key findings:

  • One in three UK adults has argued with their partner about using their mobile phone too much, according to Deloitte.
  • The rows were most common among 25-34 year olds the report found, while 11% of over 65s admitted arguments about overusing phones.
  • About a tenth of respondents admitted using their handsets “always” or “very often” while eating at home or in restaurants.
  • A third said they regularly used their devices while with friends or watching television.
  • One in three UK adults – and half of 18-24 year olds – said they checked their phones in the middle of the night, with instant messaging and social media the most popular activities.
  • One in 10 smartphone owners admitted reaching for their phone as soon as they woke up – with a third grabbing the device within five minutes of waking.

However it’s also been reported that a few famous showbiz people have said they are giving up social media and doing a digital detox but I’ll believe that when I see it. They are too narcissistic to be away from their digital followers for long.

nokia-n70 150px-nokia_3310_blueThere is however a market for old Nokia phones, such as the 3310 and N70, which are selling for hundreds of dollars online (I never liked Nokia phones with their fiddly keyboards but for a time they ruled the world).

But back to the Light Phone. It will sell for $100 in America and should be available in the UK by the end of the year. It shares the same number as your regular phone forwarding calls to it. It’s called “going light” – no emails , games or apps. Perfect when you’re out for a meal or enjoying some quiet time in the countryside.

One of the inventors said  he was constantly checking what other people were doing on social media and it was chipping away at his own contentment. (See post about social media and depression which proves his point).

I found I was getting lost in these scroll holes. I would come out not necessarily feeling good about myself. My smartphone was sucking me in. As soon as I stepped away – I call it breaking through the fomo threshold, getting over the fear of missing out, I felt free“.

He said he realised he was happier in those disconnected moments “when I can watch a sunset, appreciate my friends. We want to make a product that helps people appreciate their lives, not control their lives”.

The Light Phone is not a substitute for a smartphone but a supplement, but if it allows you to get away from all the social media intrusion. “Even just 20 minutes for a coffee“. He doesn’t see it as a retro regressive step but as asking the question about what we actually want from technology.

images-1It reminds me that I’ve got a simple Motorola W220 phone I bought in Lithuania 10 years ago to use on my regular trips out there.

No camera, less than £50, on a “pay as you go” contract. But it’s a flip top. It  might be so retro it’s trendy!

Burnley town centre regeneration

People in Burnley have had to put up with construction work in the town centre for months now, if not longer (the barriers seem to have been there forever hampering pedestrians getting to the shops).p1030925-1

It’s part of a £3 million pound revamp funded by Burnley and Lancashire County Councils and “aims to make the pedestrianised area of St James Street, between Hammerton Street and Hall St, much more attractive and provide a better shopping experience for shoppers, visitors, businesses and anyone who lives and works in the town.”

The work includes new paving, new “wave” benches and decorative lighting, replacing the existing trees with other mature ones, removing the bandstand (possibly to a park) and replacing it with a revised ”town square” area for future events such as food markets and other activities. There will be access for delivery vehicles at selected points.p1030923-1

The plan has had a mixed reception although probably favourable overall.

But if they want to attract visitors, shoppers and businesses why don’t they just provide free parking? Think of all the money they’d save on enforcement staff.

And while they’re at it what about getting into the 21c and providing free wi-fi in the town centre?

Golf, gardening and housework ..

figure_sweeping_800_10765said to reduce risk of serious diseases. Really?

Gardening – risk of tetanus, nettle rash, slug pellet poisoning, not to mention muscle strain from digging.

Housework – falling off ladders, scolding yourself, dangerous cleaning chemicals, electric shocks, and dust mites.

Golf – getting drunk at 19th hole, boredom if you don’t play, being hit by a stray ball, being hit by lightening..

Need I say more?

So why do experts think these things are good for your health?

Basically it’s the exercise involved. They say we should be doing five times the WHO recommended minimum.

Playing an extra round of golf or gardening for a few more hours each week can help prevent five of the most common chronic diseases.

The research is based on 174 studies published since 1980 and the analysis found that increasing a person’s exercise level from 600 minutes a week to 3,000 -4,000 a week reduced the risk of heart disease by 16% and colon cancer by 10%.

This is the equivalent of climbing the stairs for 10 minutes, vacuuming for 15 minutes, running for 20 minutes or walking for 25 minutes – five days a week.

This level of activity also reduces the risk of diabetes by 14% and stroke by 16%. If you doubled the exercise levels you could reduce risks by a further 7-10%.

What is clear is that in terms of protecting oneself from the development of of these five common and potentially life-limiting illnesses, undertaking any level of exercise is protective, more is better, and should be encouraged by healthcare professionals, politicians, and charities alike, to decrease the burden of these debilitating illnesses in society today” said Oliver Monfredi, clinical lecturer in cardiovascular medicine at the University of Manchester.

And researchers at the University of Strathclyde and the International Prevention Research Institute in Lyons said that this study “represents an advance in the handling of disparate detainee a lifestyle factor that has considerable importance for the prevention of chronic diseases“.

What they’re not sure about is whether risk reduction is different when you exercise in short intensive bursts or do light physical activity for longer.

OK, I take it back about the gardening and the housework – but not the golf!

An earlier post on exercise

Boys need a leg up at school but treating them like girls?

babies_with_blocks_spelling_learn_1600_wht_13401The latest research on children’s achievements suggest that there are a million lost boys out there.

These are the boys who have fallen behind girls in the communication skills they need to cope in class.

The research by the charity Save the Children and researchers from Bristol University says that this gap exists regardless of social class.

A professor of education at Bristol University said ” We found gender affects literacy attainment and language development irrespective of social class and includes boys from middle-class homes.

The worst affected area was Merseyside, where 5-year old boys were 17% behind girls in reaching expected standards in language and communication skills. But even in Rutland, which has low poverty levels, the gap was still 14%.

Girls are ahead of boys in all 152 local council areas in England.

This is worrying because children who fall behind before they reach school tend to stay behind. Boys who are behind at age 5 are four times more likely to fall below expected reading standards by the age of 11.

They struggle to pay attention in class and find it hard to follow lessons or develop friendships. They are also less likely to get good GCSE results and A levels, complete degrees (already there are fewer boys than girls going to universities), get a good job and are more at risk of poor mental health.

A spokesman for Save the Children  said “this research gets to the nub of why boys fall behind. It shows that even before they walk through the school gates they are at a disadvantage that trails them through life.

The researchers say that parents can help bridge the gap by bringing up boys more like girls.

The research shows that parents spend less time on activities that develop language skills with their sons rather than their daughters.

They sing more nursery rhymes and songs and do more drawings and paintings with girls than they do with boys. So parents can do more with their sons in this regard and also get them to talk more about their activities. They can also read story books as well as non-fiction books to get them interested in reading for pleasure (Dads take note especially).

The other problem boys have is their ability to concentrate and focus. So playing word games and completing drawing tasks can help them build up their concentration and attention span.

Save the Children is recommending having a graduate teacher in each nursery to boost boys’ levels of literacy before they get to school.

The report makes sense but the idea of bringing up boys more like girls is a misleading headline.

It’s been argued for years that there are too few male role models in nurseries and primary schools and the way young pupils are taught is more girl-friendly. Something I posted on several years ago.